Jimmy Palmiotti is the co-creator of Painkiller Jane and the writer behind Harley Quinn, All-Star Western, and Batwing. Recently, Palmiotti announced that a Painkiller Jane feature film was in development off of a script that he co-wrote. His company, Paper Films, also embarked on their sixth Kickstarter campaign, successfully funding Denver — a post apocalyptic mature original graphic novel from Palmiotti, co-writer Justin Gray, and artist Pier Brito — in just six days.
In an exclusive interview with Nerd Bastards, Palmiotti takes us through some of Denver‘s details and explains why he chose Kickstarter over more traditional methods. Palmiotti also talks to us about the future of the Painkiller Jane comic at Icon, why the time was right for a film adaptation, his happy relationship with DC editorial and what he thinks about some of the public breaks from the company that others have experienced.
For the uninitiated, what is Denver?
Jimmy Palmiotti: Denver is our sixth Kickstarter graphic novel that takes place in the near future where earth is covered with water and there is only one major city left above water where the surviving Americans live, located in the city of Denver. Our story revolves around a border patrol officer named Max Flynn who has a loved one kidnapped from him and is forced to turn the other way while criminal activity happens around him. It’s a classic story done with some cool world buildings as its backdrop.
With Denver, it almost seems like there is an Eloi/Morlicks situation at play. Is there a clear distinction with regard to who is right and who is wrong, as there was in something like Elysium, or is it a bit more muddled?
There are levels of good and bad guys, but it’s easy to see who is evil and who is just a victim to the surroundings and situation. This story is nothing like Elysium because the have-nots are all outside the city, but are being allowed to enter the city a little at a time, only when the city can sustain them. The city itself is not a lie… it is a place with predetermined resources that understands the situation it is in.
Tell me about the art of Pier Brito and what he’s bringing to this book?
Pier is new to American comics and this being his first book here, he is going to blow people away. His storytelling and skill sense is excessively European by design and this is what attracted us to hiring him for this project. Matching the right artist with the right script is an art in itself and Justin and I waited on this particular story till we had the right combination. It was the right move.
Obviously, you’re an established creator with a lot of options when you come up with a new story, why go to Kickstarter over taking a creator owned concept to a label like Image, etc?
Well, for one, I get into a direct relationship with my audience and can experiment a bit more with testing the waters; to see if they are interested in a project before I make a commitment. Second, with Kickstarter I raise the funds to make the book. Image Comics, you have to walk a finished book into them and hope they sell enough to pay the printers and all the people involved in making the book. The risk is much higher and in the end, there is a fee to pay Image that you have to take into consideration. For me, the risk is greater and with the way we have been doing the Kickstarters, we are creating a nice group of people that keep coming back and supporting our ideas.
I love Image Comics and will always have a book there, but there are different ways to get the work out there and with Kickstarter, the risk for me is much less. The other great thing about all of this is that I can sell the books I own on my own web site Paperfilms.com and the money goes directly to me and my crew, not to a middle man. That is the future happening as we speak.
Now that you’ve reached your goal, what kind of stretch goals are you adding?
We have added — when the goals are reached — extra content like a sketch section as well as some random original art and — at a higher level — a print to everyone supporting the non-digital stage, a print by Amanda Conner. If it goes higher, we will create more. It’s a wonderful and fun problem to have.
What sparked the idea to have a soundtrack to accompany this and are these songs that are inspire solely by the story or are they also songs that inspired you while you were creating it?
We had written the book already and when I write, I always listen to soundtracks by composers like John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, Vangelis and so on, so the idea popped into my head to maybe get a score done for the book itself.
I had met composer Hans Karl at a few cons and we talked about the idea for a bit and he said he was interested. We sent him the script and the art and he went to work right away. We have been getting the tracks every week from him as he finishes them and they are amazing. He is doing a great job and we thought this was a cool addition to the Kickstarter that would make it stand out.
Switching gears, is there hope for more Painkiller Jane at Icon after the miniseries?
I am looking at the hard numbers as we speak and waiting to see if it makes financial sense. I will know for sure in a week or so. The series did not do as well as I had hoped, but maybe the trade collection will give it a second life.
What makes the time right to re-explore a Painkiller Jane film adaptation? Also, what’s the silver bullet that will make this version the right fit where the prior two failed to fully click?
The thing about Jane is I have been going back and forth with Hollywood on the property since the show ended years ago and writing the screenplay myself with my script writing partner Craig Weedon seemed to be the only thing that would make me happy at this point. This screenplay has everything I ever wanted to say about the character and the time for this is right on the nose. People are very accepting of a superhero story that is more reality driven these days and this screenplay is all about the friendship of two women. With the right director, this is the beginning of a franchise on every level. We tell the story from a day one point of view. The extra thing about this, besides the screenplay, is I will be one of the main producers on the film, so if it sucks, you can blame me.
I have to assume that you’re going for an R rating with this, but is there a concern that doing that will limit your audience?
I write what I see and hear in my head, and if it gets an R rating, so be it. It’s an adult story in every way, but I am also realistic with the fact that a suitable director can still show what we’re asking and maybe get away with a lesser rating. We wrote it as an adult movie with a couple of ultra violent and sensual scenes in it. I care less about that and more about the characterization of the piece. Right now, the screenplay is in the hands of one big name director that I am a huge fan of, and a new director on the scene that has had a big hit overseas. Both are interested, both would be great. It’s a wait and see thing at the moment. The good news is that it’s going to happen for sure this time.
Would you ever consider going behind the camera like Frank Miller to get full creative control of your work as it is transferred to another medium?
Absolutely. I have done odd jobs here and there and Camera Two work on some TV and [I] would love to take something I wrote and run with it. These opportunities are rare and time consuming, but sure, I am totally game. I think at the heart of it all, I have always been a frustrated director. I have produced, did show running, and so on. The next step would be to get behind the camera. If someone was looking for me to work on a smaller production and bring my game there, I would be open to it. Maybe that’s the next Kickstarter, doing a short film. Hmmmm
In your time at DC, you’ve see a few dramatic exits, how do you get on with DC editorial, are the last second left editorial left turns and incursions overstated?
I can only speak for the relationships I have and they are pretty darn good. I’ve been doing this a long time and I understand that in the end, these are their characters and they can ask me to do whatever they like with them and it’s my choice to do it, argue about it, or leave. I don’t always agree, and I am vocal about it to them… not to the general public. My relationship and how I conduct my work is my business. I think it’s really unethical to go outside to media or social media and start complaining and naming names. It’s not how an adult conducts business. I understand people being frustrated, but that should stay between professionals or friends.
I have found that DC is probably the easiest company to work for and for me it’s why I continue to work for them. We have a professional relationship and unlike other places, they understand my value as a creator. I think a lot of creators like the attention and making a dramatic exit brings them attention. In the end, this is never the attention I want. I want people to focus on my work and the printed page, and not on me, my ego or how upset I am.